It has never been easy to be a nonprofit leader — and it certainly isn’t easy now. Even before the 2016 US election, forces like globalization, the rise of technology, new forms of online organizing, and growing inequality have been disrupting the work of social change and creating new capacity-building needs for nonprofit leaders.
In recent years, it has also become clear that achieving large-scale, lasting change requires much more than just building effective nonprofit organizations. It also requires developing agile leaders, creating new networks, catalyzing social movements, and changing larger systems.
Eager to understand what is happening on the frontlines of social change in the current environment, we recently interviewed a number of nonprofit and foundation leaders representing different issues and geographic scopes about their challenges and needs. What we learned from these interviews should help inform how funders can better support nonprofit organizations.
A number of nonprofit leaders are facing verbal, physical, or cyberattacks while working to keep their staff and communities, or clients, physically and psychically safe. Despite rising demand for their services, many nonprofits are also scrambling to secure revenue in the face of impending federal budget cuts.
We think this begins with social sector leaders adopting a “both/and” mindset—embracing the fact that navigating the following tensions aren’t temporary problems, but rather a condition of the “new normal.” These leaders are charged with:
- Being responsive and strategic.
- Building internal and external capacity.
- Thinking systemically and act proximately.
Funders must also embrace these “both/and” tenets and think about how they are making a commensurate shift in their own work. It means funders should be as nimble and adaptive as they are asking their grantees to be.
Critically, they must get beyond the “overhead myth” once and for all and fund the full cost of social change — the same way the private sector funds the full cost of doing business. And they need to give nonprofits what they are desperate for: flexible, long-term capital.
Read the full article about how funders can support new nonprofit models by Heather McLeod Grant, Adene Sacks, and Kate Wilkinson at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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